Born in Antwerp in 1858, Henri Houbén was the son of a violin master at the Antwerp School of Music. In 1877, Houbén enrolled at the Antwerp Academy and became a student of the painter Karel Verlat. Houbén spent some time in Holland, but eventually returned and settled in Belgium where he enjoyed a successful career as a painter of landscapes, portraits, and figures. In 1885, he was appointed painting master at the Antwerp Academy, a position which he held until his death in 1931.
In 1921, Houbén traveled to Spain with fellow Belgian artist Jan van Puyenbroeck (1887-1972). This study-trip most likely provided the visual inspiration for our painting, which was painted in Grenada. Our painting, Garden Scene Grenada, features a colorful and lush garden courtyard. A table with a still life and potted plants flanks the entranceway into the garden. In the distance, a Spanish woman casually leans against a wall, filling her water pitcher. A path with a circular fountain leads the viewer from the foreground to the figure and back to the table, covered with flowers, fruit, and wine on an embroidered yellow and blue floral patterned tablecloth. The delicate brushwork Houbén uses to suggest the tablecloth’s details is also seen in the leafy trees, creating an overall effect of dappled sunlight. The rich layers of foliage that fill the composition add a vibrancy and liveliness to the charming setting.